Coen brothers’ new movie humorous, strange

Madeline Dupre

Following their career of complex and often hilarious films, the Coen brothers continue to disregard genre in their most recent movie, Hail, Caesar!. While the plot of the film doesn’t hold up as well as the other Coen brothers’ movies that I’ve seen (Raising Arizona; O Brother, Where Art Thou and True Grit), it certainly merits watching based on the star-studded lineup and hilarity through some of the weirdest situations the Coens have thought up yet. (Yes, even weirder than stealing a baby in Raising Arizona.)

The cast is unbelievable. Josh Brolin, Channing Tatum, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Fisher Stevens all appear. All of these performances were distinct and memorable, although Swinton’s portrayal of competing twin journalists didn’t work as well as I had hoped. The concept — two twins, both gossip columnists competing for a story, are essentially the same person, with similar outfits and names — is one that is funny on paper but becomes too confusing on film. This joke could be much funnier in a book. For the most part, though, the humor works. The situations that arise in the film, like with Johansson’s portrayal of a synchronized swimming actress and Brolin’s character continuously going to confession as part of the guilty Catholic trope, are so retro and surreal that it’s hilarious.

Despite all of the big names, Alden Ehrenreich, a newer actor, was one of my favorite performers. Ehrenreich plays Western film star Hobie Doyle, who has been cast, out of sheer necessity for an actor to play the role, in a drama directed by the pretentious director Laurence Laurentz (played by Fiennes). Ehrenreich manages to make the simple humor of his thick Western accent funny while also providing depth to his character at the premiere of one of his Westerns and when he interacts with Brolin.

Unfortunately, the plot of Hail, Caesar! is where it falls short. Multiple storylines all flow through the movie, tied together by the lead, Eddie Mannix (played by Brolin), who is head of production at Capital Pictures in 1951. The main plotlines — the kidnapping of actor Baird Whitlock (played by Clooney) and Brolin’s personal choices in his desperate attempts to keep everything under control — are fully fledged and have surprising twists. But the rest, like the stories revolving around Johansson’s character and Ehrenreich’s questionable casting in a fancy drama, are ended with a one-liner or brief explanation, which seems odd after the multiple scenes that were dedicated to those characters. Jonah Hill, while on the poster, basically has a cameo. To even say what his character does would be to spoil part of the story, which makes him less of a character and more of a plot device.

What Hail, Caesar! has going for it is its light humor. It’s hard to believe that these are the same people who wrote the 2010 True Grit when Channing Tatum is dressed like a sailor and singing a song with subtext so gay it’s basically text. This movie is an absurd comedy with levity but also enough weight to feel like a film that matches the $10 movie ticket. It’s worth seeing for the amount of recognizable faces and humor alone, even if it isn’t one of the best Coen brothers’ films.